How Was It?

Finally, the “hectic” has faded and all of the hullabaloo from the Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day corridor has settled down. I’ve got to admit, it’s almost a relief. As vacations wrap up we greet co-workers, friends and family who were out of our loop for a while. It seems that a universal question keeps popping up; How was it? Somehow we want affirmation that all of the “crazy” was worth it. That the celebrations and crashing around at break-neck speed was a good thing. For the most part it was. For me, though I had an experience this year that has never been part of my radar before.

So, I’m an old dog with not so many new tricks. Singing is a great and deep love for me and I have been involved around town as a choir member, soloist, recital artist and wedding/funeral person for a quite some time. As I have aged, though, my energy levels and flexibility in getting around have dramatically altered that previous picture. A terse music director at my home church hasn’t helped matters. So for quite a while this bird has been silent. I was pretty sad about that.

There is one thing that you might not know about anyone who has the heart of a musician. No matter what age you are, the music never leaves you and you always want to be up there, no matter what your state. Sometimes that can make you more than crazy. So when things changed and we hired a new music director that voice in my head kept saying: “Go back, go back, go back now”. I tried to ignore it, telling myself that it wouldn’t be easy and the whole routine of early mornings, rehearsals and the hysteria of the energies that surround Liturgical Seasons would just be “too much” and undoable for this senior. After all, it was Advent, with Christmas coming up. This is one of the “toughest” music seasons of the year.

So I dipped one foot into the pool; self-compromise, get myself to Mass every other week. Then guilt overtook my better judgement: “Do it right or not at all.” Regular rehearsals, Mass at different locations, extra music on feast days. Surprise, I survived the initial few weeks and even got to a place where I didn’t struggle with the early morning rise like I have the past few years. There was that familiar feeling too. I’m really happy when I sing, especially liturgy. There were other things, however, in this particular adventure that I never would have seen coming.

Most choirs have their cast of characters. You can pretty much predict what the divisions will be if you have ever done this routine before. There are aspiring pros, people picking up some extra money, community people and those who don’t really sing well, but love the idea of serving their church. Everyone pretty much has their own agenda. They come and go with polite greetings and little other attachments or personal involvement. This is neither a good nor a bad thing  but pretty typical of musicians who are trying their best to keep singing. There really is no other way to keep a vocal instrument in the best shape possible. “Gotta sing”, as they say!

My new group, though, has shattered all of my smug, pre-conceived notions. We have young and old, a mix of backgrounds, aspirations and even some folks with disabilities. There are umpteen things happening here that are unlike anything I have ever experienced in a transient community of musicians. Overwhelmingly, this crew has developed a collective character that is extraordinary. It grows and matures every week. Because of it, the music we are making is a sound that is heavenly and pretty much beyond logic for the size of the group.

I remember that when I decided to give it a go again I was in fear of my abilities to gracefully get around and participate. No problem. Several colleagues have a purposeful eye out for me as I move around. Several shadow me as I trek up the aisle that seems to me like a pilgrimage. I know they’re hanging out just behind me to make sure I’m O.K. As we rose for communion one day, the “alligator pit” of mic cords got me by the ankle. In a split second decision, another of my mates quickly dropped to her knee to untangle and save me. No one was the wiser. Another friend stealthily re-arranges stands, mics and cords to make sure I can find a safe way to communion. Another, yet, will carry my music across the hall as we move to sectionals. Our gentlemen carry a bag or assist me in and out. One young man has no problem making sure that I get a copy of the newest stuff laid out on the piano up front. And one young man even stopped me privately to tell me thank you for a comment of empathy that I made to our young drummer. We correct each other, pass on missed information and make sure we are all on the same page. No problems, no jealousies, no tempers, no egos. Just a lot of mutual respect and love. Huh………………miles from that “every man for himself” attitude that I have experienced many times before in a choir setting.

So, what’s the magic? How did we get this way? Without question, that would be the stunning attitude and demeanor of our new director. If you’re aiming at “growth” it’s important to remember that when you’re in a position to offer even the tiniest gesture of kindness to someone, don’t pass up the occasion. Might be the best for you too! Saint Faustina Kowalska (†1938) sums up God’s invitation to us: “Be watchful that you lose no opportunity that my providence offers you for sanctification.” My mates and remarkable, loving, director gave me back the gift of music that I thought was gone from my life permanently. We all have that kind of healing power, you know. So, when someone inquires about the holidays from me this year and asks: “How was it?” All I have to say is: BEST Advent, Christmas, and Holiday EVER! Love you choir. I can hardly wait for 2016.

Copyright© 2016, Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn holds a Master’s in Education from Saint Xavier University. Most recently she completed Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This recent degree was part of a “retirement project” after teaching for 35 years. She has also worked as a spiritual director, music minister,council member and prayer team warrior. Kathryn has a deep interest in catechesis for the people in the pews. As a “sort of” convert she finds the wisdom of the Church a source for encouragement, joy and survival in a world not sure of anything. Her writing has appeared in diocesan publications and on-line sites, most recently for Zenit. To learn more about Kathryn check out her thinking at:">

2 responses to “How Was It?”

  1. Luciano Corbo says:


    It is amazing what a little love and respect can do! Imagine if there was an abundance everywhere!

    God Bless and all the bet for the coming year!


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